Successful management of parties—Precautions—Removal from the Luxembourg to the Tuileries—Hackney-coaches and the Consul's white horses—Royal custom and an inscription—The review—Bonaparte's homage to the standards—Talleyrand in Bonaparte's cabinet— Bonaparte's aversion to the cap of liberty even in painting—The state bed—Our cabinet.
Of the three brothers to whom the 18th Brumaire gave birth Bonaparte speedily declared himself the eldest, and hastened to assume all the rights of primogeniture. He soon arrogated to himself the whole power. The project he had formed, when he favoured the revolution of the 18th Fructidor, was now about to be realized. It was then an indispensable part of his plan that the Directory should violate the constitution in order to justify a subsequent subversion of the Directory. The expressions which escaped him from time to time plainly showed that his ambition was not yet satisfied, and that the Consulship was only a state of probation preliminary to the complete establishment of monarchy. The Luxembourg was then discovered to be too small for the Chief of the Government, and it was resolved that Bonaparte should inhabit the Tuileries. Still great prudence was necessary to avoid the quicksands which surrounded him! He therefore employed great precaution in dealing with the susceptibilities of the Republicans, taking care to inure them gradually to the temperature of absolute power. But this mode of treatment was not sufficient; for such was Bonaparte's situation between the Jacobins and the Royalists that he could not strike a blow at one party without strengthening the other. He, however, contrived to solve this difficult problem, and weakened both parties by alternately frightening each. "You see, Royalists," he seemed to say, "if you do not attach yourselves to my government the Jacobins will again rise and bring back the reign of terror and its scaffold." To the men of the Revolution he, on the other hand, said, "See, the counter-Revolution appears, threatening reprisals and vengeance. It is ready to overwhelm you; my buckler can alone protect you from its attacks." Thus both parties were induced, from their mutual fear of each other, to attach themselves to Bonaparte; and while they fancied they were only placing themselves under the protection of the Chief of the Government, they were making themselves dependent on an ambitious man, who, gradually bending them to his will, guided them as he chose in his political career. He advanced with a firm step; but he never neglected any artifice to conceal, as long as possible, his designs.
I saw Bonaparte put in motion all his concealed springs; and I could not help admiring his wonderful address.
But what most astonished me was the control he possessed over himself, in repressing any premature manifestation of his intentions which might prejudice his projects. Thus, for instance, he never spoke of the Tuileries but under the name of "the Palace of the Government," and he determined not to inhabit, at first, the ancient palace of the kings of France alone. He contented himself with selecting the royal apartments, and proposed that the Third Consul should also reside in the Tuileries, and in consequence he occupied the Pavilion of Flora. This skilful arrangement was perfectly in accordance with the designation of "Palace of the Government" given to the Tuileries, and was calculated to deceive, for a time; the most clear-sighted.
The moment for leaving the Luxembourg having arrived, Bonaparte still used many deceptive precautions. The day filed for the translation of the seat of government was the 30th Pluviose, the previous day having been selected for publishing the account of the votes taken for the acceptance of the new Constitution. He had, besides, caused the insertion in the 'Moniteur' of the eulogy on Washington, pronounced, by M. de Fontanes, the decadi preceding, to be delayed for ten days. He thought that the day when he was about to take so large a step towards monarchy would be well chosen for entertaining the people of Paris with grand ideas of liberty, and for coupling his own name with that of the founder of the free government of the United States.
At seven o'clock on the morning of the 30th Pluviuse I entered, as usual, the chamber of the First Consul. He was in a profound sleep, and this was one of the days on which I had been desired to allow him to sleep a little longer than usual. I have often observed that General Bonaparte appeared much less moved when on the point of executing any great design—than during the time of projecting it, so accustomed was he to think that what he had resolved on in his mind, was already done.
When I returned to Bonaparte he said to me, with a marked air of satisfaction, "Well, Bourrienne, to-night, at last, we shall sleep in the Tuileries. You are better off than I: you are not obliged to make a spectacle of yourself, but may go your own road there. I must, however, go in procession: that disgusts me; but it is necessary to speak to the eyes. That has a good effect on the people. The Directory was too simple, and therefore never enjoyed any consideration. In the army simplicity is in its proper place; but in a great city, in a palace, the Chief of the Government must attract attention in every possible way, yet still with prudence. Josephine is going to look out from Lebrun's apartments; go with her, if you like; but go to the cabinet as soon as you see me alight from my-horse."
I did not go to the review, but proceeded to the Tuileries, to arrange in our new cabinet the papers which it was my duty to take care of, and to prepare everything for the First Consul's arrival. It was not until the evening that I learned, from the conversation in the salon, where there was a numerous party, what had taken piece in the course of the day.
At one o'clock precisely Bonaparte left the Luxembourg. The procession was, doubtless, far from approaching the magnificent parade of the Empire: but as much pomp was introduced as the state of things in France permitted. The only real splendour of that period consisted in fine troops. Three thousand picked men, among whom was the superb regiment of the Guides, had been ordered out for the occasion: all marched in the greatest order; with music at the head of each corps. The generals and their staffs were on horseback, the Ministers in carriages, which were somewhat remarkable, as they were almost the only private carriages then in Paris, for hackney-coaches had been hired to convey the Council of State, and no trouble had been taken to alter them, except by pasting over the number a piece of paper of the same colour as the body of the vehicle. The Consul's carriage was drawn by six white horses. With the sight of those horses was associated the recollection of days of glory and of peace, for they had been presented to the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy by the Emperor of Germany after the treaty of Campo-Formio. Bonaparte also wore the magnificent sabre given him by the Emperor Francis. With Cambaceres on his left, and Lebrun in the front of the carriage, the First Consul traversed a part of Paris, taking the Rue de Thionville; and the Quai Voltaire to the Pont Royal. Everywhere he was greeted by acclamations of joy, which at that time were voluntary, and needed not to be commanded by the police.
From the-wicket-of the Carrousel to the gate of the Tuileries the troops of the Consular Guard were formed in two lines, through which the procession passed—a royal custom, which made a singular contrast with an inscription in front of which Bonaparte passed on entering the courtyard. Two guard-houses had been built, one on the right and another on the left of the centre gate. On the one to the right were written these words:
"THE TENTH of AUGUST 1792.—ROYALTY IN FRANCE IS ABOLISHED; AND SHALL NEVER BE RE-ESTABLISHED!"
It was already re-established!
In the meantime the troops had been drawn up in line in the courtyard. As soon as the Consul's carriage stopped Bonaparte immediately alighted, and mounted, or, to speak more properly, leaped on his horse, and reviewed his troops, while the other two Consuls proceeded to the state apartments of the Tuileries, where the Council of State and the Ministers awaited them. A great many ladies, elegantly dressed in Greek costume, which was then the fashion, were seated with Madame Bonaparte at the windows of the Third Consul's apartments in the Pavilion of Flora. It is impossible to give an idea of the immense crowds which flowed in from all quarters. The windows looking to the Carrousel were let for very large sums; and everywhere arose, as if from one voice, shouts of "Long live the First Consul!" Who could help being intoxicated by so much enthusiasm?
Bonaparte prolonged the review for some time, passed down all the ranks, and addressed the commanders of corps in terms of approbation and praise. He then took his station at the gate of the Tuileries, with Murat on his right, and Lannes on his left, and behind him a numerous staff of young warriors, whose complexions had been browned by the sun of Egypt and Italy, and who had been engaged in more battles than they numbered years When the colours of the 96th, 43d, and 34th demi-brigades, or rather their flagstaffs surmounted by some shreds, riddled by balls and blackened by powder, passed before him, he raised his hat and inclined his head in token of respect. Every homage thus paid by a great captain to standards which had been mutilated on the field of battle was saluted by a thousand acclamations. When the troops had finished defiling before him, the First Consul, with a firm step, ascended the stairs of the Tuileries.
The General's part being finished for the day, that of the Chief of the State began; and indeed it might already be said that the First Consul was the whole Consulate. At the risk of interrupting my narrative of what occurred on our arrival at the Tuileries, by a digression, which may be thought out of place, I will relate a fact which had no little weight in hastening Bonaparte's determination to assume a superiority over his colleagues. It may be remembered that when Roger Ducos and Sieyes bore the title of Consuls the three members of the Consular commission were equal, if not in fact at least in right. But when Cambaceres and Lebrun took their places, Talleyrand; who had at the same time been appointed to succeed M. Reinhart as Minister of Foreign Affairs, obtained a private audience of the First Consul in his cabinet, to which I was admitted. The observations of Talleyrand on this occasion were highly agreeable to Bonaparte, and they made too deep an impression on my mind to allow me to forget them.
"Citizen Consul," said he to him, "you have confided to me the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I will justify your confidence; but I must declare to you that from this moment, I will not transact business with any but yourself. This determination does not proceed from any vain pride on my part, but is induced, by a desire to serve France. In order that France may be well governed, in order that there may be a unity of action in the government, you must be First Consul, and the First Consul must have the control over all that relates directly to politics; that is to say, over the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Police, for Internal Affairs, and over my department, for Foreign Affairs; and, lastly, over the two great means of execution, the military and naval forces. It will therefore be most convenient that the Ministers of those five departments should transact business with you. The Administration of Justice and the ordering of the Finances are objects certainly connected with State politics by numerous links, which, however, are not of so intimate a nature as those of the other departments. If you will allow me, General, I should advise that the control over the Administration of Justice be given to the Second Consul, who is well versed in jurisprudence; and to the Third Consul, who is equally well acquainted with Finance, the control over that department. That will occupy and amuse them, and you, General, having at your disposal all the vital parts of the government, will be able to reach the end you aim at, the regeneration of France."
Bonaparte did not hear these remarkable words with indifference. They were too much in accordance with his own secret wishes to be listened to without pleasure; and he said to me as soon as Talleyrand had taken leave, "Do you know, Bourrienne, I think Talleyrand gives good advice. He is a man of great understanding."—"Such is the opinion," I replied, "of all who know him."—"He is perfectly right." Afterwards he added, smiling, "Tallyrand is evidently a shrewd man. He has penetrated my designs. What he advises you know I am anxious to do. But again I say, he is right; one gets on quicker by oneself. Lebrun is a worthy man, but he has no policy in his head; he is a book-maker. Cambaceres carries with him too many traditions of the Revolution. My government must be an entirely new one."
Talleyrand's advice had been so punctually followed that even on the occasion of the installation of the Consular Government, while Bonaparte was receiving all the great civil and military officers of the State in the hall of presentation, Cambaceres and Lebrun stood by more like spectators of the scene than two colleagues of the First Consul. The Minister of the Interior presented the civil authorities of Paris; the Minister of War, the staff of the 17th military division; the Minister of Marine, several naval officers; and the staff of the Consular Guard was presented by Murat. As our Consular republicans were not exactly Spartans, the ceremony of the presentations was followed by grand dinner-parties. The First Consul entertained at his table, the two other Consuls, the Ministers, and the Presidents of the great bodies of the State. Murat treated the heads of the army; and the members of the Council of State, being again seated in their hackney-coaches with covered numbers, drove off to dine with Lucien.
Before taking possession of the Tuileries we had frequently gone there to see that the repairs, or rather the whitewashing, which Bonaparte had directed to be done, was executed. On our first visit, seeing a number of red caps of liberty painted on the walls, he said to M. Lecomte, at that time the architect in charge, "Get rid of all these things; I do not like to see such rubbish."
The First Consul gave directions himself for what little alterations he wanted in his own apartments. A state bed—not that of Louis XVI.—was placed in the chamber next his cabinet, on the south side, towards the grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora. I may as well mention here that he very seldom occupied that hed, for Bonaparte was very simple in his manner of living in private, and was not fond of state, except as a means of imposing on mankind. At the Luxembourg, at Malmaison, and during the first period that he occupied the Tuileries, Bonaparte, if I may speak in the language of common life, always slept with his wife. He went every evening down to Josephine by a small staircase leading from a wardrobe attached to his cabinet, and which had formerly been the chapel of Maria de Medici. I never went to Bonaparte's bedchamber but by this staircase; and when he came to our cabinet it was always by the wardrobe which I have mentioned. The door opened opposite the only window of our room, and it commanded a view of the garden.
As for our cabinet, where so many great, and also small events were prepared, and where I passed so many hours of my life, I can, even now, give the most minute description of it to those who like such details.
There were two tables. The best, which was the First Consul's, stood in the middle of the room, and his armchair was turned with its back to the fireplace, having the window on the right. To the right of this again was a little closet where Duroc sat, through which we could communicate with the clerk of the office and the grand apartments of the Court. When the First Consul was seated at his table in his chair (the arms of which he so frequently mutilated with his penknife) he had a large bookcase opposite to him. A little to the right, on one side of the bookcase, was another door, opening into the cabinet which led directly to the state bedchamber which I have mentioned. Thence we passed into the grand Presentation Saloon, on the ceiling of which Lebrun had painted a likeness of Louis XIV. A tri-coloured cockade placed on the forehead of the great King still bore witness of the imbecile turpitude of the Convention. Lastly came the hall of the Guards, in front of the grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora.
My writing-table, which was extremely plain, stood near the window, and in summer I had a view of the thick foliage of the chestnut-trees; but in order to see the promenaders in the garden I was obliged to raise myself from my seat. My back was turned to the General's side, so that it required only a slight movement of the head to speak to each other. Duroc was seldom in his little cabinet, and that was the place where I gave some audiences. The Consular cabinet, which afterwards became the Imperial, has left many impressions on my mind; and I hope the reader, in going through these volumes, will not think that they have been of too slight a description.
The Tuileries—Royalty in perspective—Remarkable observation— Presentations—Assumption of the prerogative of mercy—M. Defeu— M. de Frotte—Georges Cadondal's audience of Bonaparte—Rapp's precaution and Bonaparte's confidence—The dignity of France— Napper Tandy and Blackwell delivered up by the Senate of Hamburg— Contribution in the Egyptian style—Valueless bill—Fifteen thousand francs in the drawer of a secretaire—Josephine's debts—Evening walks with Bonaparte.
The morning after that ardently wished-for day on which we took possession of the Palace of the Kings of France I observed to Bonaparte on entering his chamber, "Well, General, you have got here without much difficulty, and with the applause of the people! Do you remember what you said to me in the Rue St. Anne nearly two years ago?"—"Ay, true enough, I recollect. You see what it is to have the mind set on a thing. Only two years have gone by! Don't you think we have not worked badly since that time? Upon the whole I am very well content. Yesterday passed off well. Do you imagine that all those who came to flatter me were sincere? No, certainly not: but the joy of the people was real. They know what is right. Besides, consult the grand thermometer of opinion, the price of the funds: on the 17th Brumaire at 11 francs, on the 20th at 16 and to-day at 21. In such a state of things I may let the Jacobins prate as they like. But let them not talk too loudly either!"
As soon as he was dressed we went to look through the Gallery of Diana and examine the statues which had been placed there by his orders. We ended our morning's work by taking complete possession of our new residence. I recollect Bonaparte saying to me, among other things, "To be at the Tuileries, Bourrienne, is not all. We must stay here. Who, in Heaven's name, has not already inhabited this palace? Ruffians, conventionalists! But hold! there is your brother's house! Was it not from those windows I saw the Tuileries besieged, and the good Louis XVI. carried off? But be assured they will not come here again!"
The Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers then in Paris were presented to the First Consul at a solemn audience. On this occasion all the ancient ceremonials belonging to the French Court were raked up, and in place of chamberlains and a grand master of ceremonies a Counsellor of State, M. Benezech, who was once Minister for Foreign Affairs, officiated.
When the Ambassadors had all arrived M. Benezech conducted them into the cabinet, in which were the three Consuls, the Ministers, and the Council of State. The Ambassadors presented their credentials to the First Consul, who handed them to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. These presentations were followed by others; for example, the Tribunal of Cassation, over which the old advocate, Target, who refused to defend Louis XVI., then presided. All this passed in view of the three Consuls; but the circumstance which distinguished the First Consul from his colleagues was, that the official personages, on leaving the audience-chamber, were conducted to Madame Bonaparte's apartments, in imitation of the old practice of waiting on the Queen after presentation to the King.
Thus old customs of royalty crept by degrees into the former abodes of royalty. Amongst the rights attached to the Crown, and which the Constitution of the year VIII. did not give to the First Consul, was one which he much desired to possess, and which, by the most happy of all usurpations, he arrogated to himself. This was the right of granting pardon. Bonaparte felt a real pleasure in saving men under the sentence of the law; and whenever the imperious necessity of his policy, to which, in truth, he sacrificed everything, permitted it, he rejoiced in the exercise of mercy. It would seem as if he were thankful to the persons to whom he rendered such service merely because he had given them occasion to be thankful to him. Such was the First Consul: I do not speak of the Emperor. Bonaparte, the First Consul, was accessible to the solicitations of friendship in favour of persons placed under proscription. The following circumstance, which interested me much, affords an incontestable proof of what I state:—
Whilst we were still at the Luxembourg, M. Defeu, a French emigrant, was taken in the Tyrol with arms in his hand by the troops of the Republic. He was carried to Grenoble, and thrown into the military prison of that town. In the course of January General Ferino, then commanding at Grenoble, received orders to put the young emigrant on his trial. The laws against emigrants taken in arms were terrible, and the judges dared not be indulgent. To be tried in the morning, condemned in the course of the day, and shot in the evening, was the usual course of those implacable proceedings. One of my cousins, the daughter of M. Poitrincourt, came from Sens to Paris to inform me of the dreadful situation of M. Defeu. She told me that he was related to the most respectable families of the town of Sens, and that everybody felt the greatest interest in his fate.
I had escaped for a few moments to keep the appointment I made with Mademoiselle Poitrincourt. On my return I perceived the First Consul surprised at finding himself alone in the cabinet, which I was not in the habit of quitting without his knowledge. "Where have you been?" said he. "I have been to see one of my relations, who solicits a favour of you."—"What is it?" I then informed him of the unfortunate situation of M. Defeu. His first answer was dreadful. "No pity! no pity for emigrants! Whoever fights against his country is a child who tries to kill his mother!" This first burst of anger being over, I returned to the charge. I urged the youth of M. Defeu, and the good effect which clemency would produce. "Well," said he, "write—
"The First Consul orders the judgment on M. Defeu to be suspended."
He signed this laconic order, which I instantly despatched to General Ferino. I acquainted my cousin with what had passed, and remained at ease as to the result of the affair.
Scarcely had I entered the chamber of the First Consul the next morning when he said to me, "Well, Bourrienne, you say nothing about your M. Defeu. Are you satisfied?"—"General, I cannot find terms to express my gratitude."—"Ah, bah! But I do not like to do things by halves. Write to Ferino that I wish M. Defeu to be instantly set at liberty. Perhaps I am serving one who will prove ungrateful. Well, so much the worse for him. As to these matters, Bourrienne, always ask them from me. When I refuse, it is because I cannot help it."
I despatched at my own expense an extraordinary courier, who arrived in time to save M. Defeu's life. His mother, whose only son he was, and M. Blanchet, his uncle, came purposely from Sens to Paris to express their gratitude to me. I saw tears of joy fall from the eyes of a mother who had appeared to be destined to shed bitter drops, and I said to her as I felt, "that I was amply recompensed by the success which had attended my efforts."
Emboldened by this success, and by the benevolent language of the First Consul, I ventured to request the pardon of M. de Frotte, who was strongly recommended to me by most honourable persons. Comte Louis de Frotte had at first opposed all negotiation for the pacification of La Vendee. At length, by a series of unfortunate combats, he was, towards the end of January, reduced to the necessity of making himself the advances which he had rejected when made by others. At this period he addressed a letter to General Guidal, in which he offered pacificatory proposals. A protection to enable him to repair to Alencon was transmitted to him. Unfortunately for M. de Frotte, he did not confine himself to writing to General Guidal, for whilst the safe-conduct which he had asked was on the way to him, he wrote to his lieutenants, advising them not to submit or consent to be disarmed. This letter was intercepted. It gave all the appearance of a fraudulent stratagem to his proposal to treat for peace. Besides, this opinion appeared to be confirmed by a manifesto of M. de Frotte, anterior, it is true, to the offers of pacification, but in which he announced to all his partisans the approaching end of Bonaparte's "criminal enterprise."
I had more trouble than in M: Defeu's case to induce the First Consul to exercise his clemency. However, I pressed him so much, I laboured so hard to convince him of the happy effect of such indulgence, that at length I obtained an order to suspend the judgment. What a lesson I then experienced of the evil which may result from the loss of time! Not supposing that matters were so far advanced as they were, I did not immediately send off the courier with the order for the suspension of the judgment. Besides, the Minister-of-Police had marked his victim, and he never lost time when evil was to be done. Having, therefore, I know not for what motive, resolved on the destruction of M. de Frotte, he sent an order to hasten his trial.
Comte Louis de Frotte was brought to trial on the 28th Pluviose, condemned the same day, and executed the next morning, the day before we entered the Tuileries. The cruel precipitation of the Minister rendered the result of my solicitations abortive. I had reason to think that after the day on which the First Consul granted me the order for delay he had received some new accusation against M. de Frotte, for when he heard of his death he appeared to me very indifferent about the tardy arrival of the order for suspending judgment. He merely said to me, with unusual insensibility, "You should take your measures better. You see it is not my fault."
Though Bonaparte put no faith in the virtue of men, he had confidence in their honour. I had proof of this in a matter which deserves to be recorded in history. When, during the first period of our abode at the Tuileries, he had summoned the principal chiefs of, La Vendee to endeavour to bring about the pacification of that unhappy country; he received Georges Cadoudal in a private audience. The disposition in which I beheld him the evening before the day appointed for this audience inspired me with the most flattering hopes. Rapp introduced Georges into the grand salon looking into the garden. Rapp left him alone with the First Consul, but on returning to the cabinet where I was he did not close either of the two doors of the state bedchamber which separated the cabinet from the salon. We saw the First Consul and Georges walk from the window to the bottom of the salon—then return—then go back again. This lasted for a long time. The conversation appeared very animated, and we heard several things, but without any connection. There was occasionally a good deal of ill-humour displayed in their tone and gestures. The interview ended in nothing. The First Consul, perceiving that Georges entertained some apprehensions for his personal safety, gave him assurances of security in the most noble manner, saying, "You take a wrong view of things, and are wrong in not coming to some understanding; but if you persist in wishing to return to your country you shall depart as freely as you came to Paris." When Bonaparte returned to his cabinet he said to Rapp, "Tell me, Rapp, why you left these doors open, and stopped with Bourrienne?" Rapp replied, "If you had closed the doors I would have opened them again. Do you think I would have left you alone with a man like that? There would have been danger in it."—"No, Rapp," said Bonaparte, "you cannot think so." When we were alone the First Consul appeared pleased with Rapp's attachment, but very vexed at Georges' refusal. He said, "He does not take a correct view of things; but the extravagance of his principles has its source in noble sentiments, which must give him great influence over his countrymen. It is necessary, however, to bring this business soon to an end."
Of all the actions of Louis XIV. that which Bonaparte most admired was his having made the Doge of Genoa send ambassadors to Paris to apologise to him. The slightest insult offered in a foreign country to the rights and dignity of France put Napoleon beside himself. This anxiety to have the French Government respected exhibited itself in an affair which made much noise at the period, but which was amicably arranged by the soothing influence of gold.
Two Irishmen, Napper Tandy and Blackwell, who had been educated in France, and whose names and rank as officers appeared in the French army list, had retired to Hamburg. The British Government claimed them as traitors to their country, and they were given up; but, as the French Government held them to be subjects of France, the transaction gave rise to bitter complaints against the Senate of Hamburg.
Blackwell had been one of the leaders of the united Irishmen. He had procured his naturalisation in France, and had attained the rank, of chef d'escadrou. Being sent on a secret mission to Norway, the ship in which he was embarked was wrecked on the coast of that kingdom. He then repaired to Hamburg, where the Senate placed him under arrest on the demand of Mr. Crawford, the English Minister. After being detained in prison a whole year he was conveyed to England to be tried. The French Government interfered, and preserved, if not, his liberty, at least his life.
Napper Tandy was also an Irishman. To escape the search made after him, on account of the sentiments of independence which had induced him to engage in the contest for the liberty of his country, he got on board a French brig, intending to land at Hamburg and pass into Sweden. Being exempted from the amnesty by the Irish Parliament, he was claimed by the British Government, and the Senators of Hamburg forgot honour and humanity in their alarm at the danger which at that moment menaced their little republic both from England and France. The Senate delivered up Napper Tandy; he was carried to Ireland, and condemned to death, but owed the suspension of his execution to the interference of France. He remained two years in prison, when M. Otto, who negotiated with Lord Hawkesbury the preliminaries of peace, obtained the release of Napper Tandy, who was sent back to France.
The First Consul spoke at first of signal vengeance; but the Senate of Hamburg sent him a memorial, justificatory of its conduct, and backed the apology with a sum of four millions and a half, which mollified him considerably. This was in some sort a recollection of Egypt—one of those little contributions with which the General had familiarised the pashas; with this difference, that on the present occasion not a single sous went into the national treasury. The sum was paid to the First Consul through the hands of M. Chapeau Rouge.
—[A solemn deputation from the Senate arrived at the Tuileries to make public apologies to Napoleon. He again testified his indignation: and when the envoys urged their weakness he said to them. "Well and had you not the resource of weak states? was it not in your power to let them escape?" (Napoleon's Memoirs).]—
I kept the four millions and a half in Dutch bonds in a secretaire for a week. Bonaparte then determined to distribute them; after paying Josephine's debts, and the whole of the great expenses incurred at Malmaison, he dictated to me a list of persons to whom he wished to make presents. My name did not escape his lips, and consequently I had not the trouble to transcribe it; but some time after he said to me, with the most engaging kindness, "Bourrienne, I have given you none of the money which came from Hamburg, but I will make you amends for it." He took from his drawer a large and broad sheet of printed paper, with blanks filled up in his own handwriting, and said to me, "Here is a bill for 300,000 Italian livres on the Cisalpine Republic, for the price of cannon furnished. It is endorsed Halter and Collot—I give it you." To make this understood, I ought to state that cannon had been sold to the Cisalpine. Republic, for the value of which the Administrator-general of the Italian finances drew on the Republic, and the bills were paid over to M. Collot, a provision contractor, and other persons. M. Collot had given one of these bills for 300,000 livres to Bonaparte in quittance of a debt, but the latter had allowed the bill to run out without troubling himself about it. The Cisalpine Republic kept the cannons and the money, and the First Consul kept his bill. When I had examined it I said, "General, it has been due for a long time; why have you not got it paid? The endorsers are no longer liable."—"France is bound to discharge debts of this kind;" said he; "send the paper to de Fermont: he will discount it for three per cent. You will not have in ready money more than about 9000 francs of renters, because the Italian livre is not equal to the franc." I thanked him, and sent the bill to M. de Fermont. He replied that the claim was bad, and that the bill would not be liquidated because it did not come within the classifications made by the laws passed in the months the names of which terminated in 'aire, ose, al, and or'.
I showed M. de Fermont's answer to the First Consul, who said, "Ah, bah! He understands nothing about it—he is wrong: write." He then dictated a letter, which promised very favourably for the discounting of the bill; but the answer was a fresh refusal. I said, "General, M. de Fermont does not attend to you any more than to myself." Bonaparte took the letter, read it, and said, in the tone of a man who knew beforehand what he was about to be, informed of, "Well, what the devil would you have me do, since the laws are opposed to it? Persevere; follow the usual modes of liquidation, and something will come of it!" What finally happened was, that by a regular decree this bill was cancelled, torn, and deposited in the archives. These 300,000 livres formed part of the money which Bonaparte brought from Italy. If the bill was useless to me it was also useless to him. This scrap of paper merely proves that he brought more. than 25,000 francs from Italy.
I never had, from the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy, nor from the General in-Chief of the army of, Egypt, nor from the First Consul, for ten years, nor from the Consul for life, any fixed salary: I took from his drawer what was necessary for my expenses as well as his own: He never asked me for any account. After the transaction of the bill on the insolvent Cisalpine Republic he said to me, at the beginning of the winter of 1800, "Bourrienne, the weather, is becoming very bad; I will go but seldom to Malmaison. Whilst I am at council get my papers and little articles from Malmaison; here is the key of my secretaire, take out everything that is there." I, got into the carriage at two o'clock and returned at six. When he had dined I placed upon the table of his cabinet the various articles which I had found in his secretaire including 15,000 francs (somewhere about L 600 of English money) in banknotes which were in the corner of a little drawer. When he looked at them he said, "Here is money—what is the meaning of this?" I replied, "I know nothing about it, except that it was in your secretaire."— "Oh yes; I had forgotten it. It was for my trifling expenses. Here, take it." I remembered well that one summer morning he had given me his key to bring him two notes of 1000 francs for some incidental expense, but I had no idea that he had not drawn further on his little treasure.
I have stated the appropriation of the four millions and a half, the result of the extortion inflicted on the Senate of Hamburg, in the affair of Napper Tandy and Blackwell.
The whole, however, Was not disposed of in presents. A considerable portion was reserved fob paying Josephine's debts, and this business appears to me to deserve some remarks.
The estate of Malmaison had cost 160,000 francs. Josephine had purchased it of M. Lecouteuix while we were in Egypt. Many embellishments, and some new buildings, had been made there; and a park had been added, which had now become beautiful. All this could not be done for nothing, and besides, it was very necessary that what was due for the original purchase should be entirely discharged; and this considerable item was not the only debt of Josephine. The creditors murmured, which had a bad effect in Paris; and I confess I was so well convinced that the First Consul would be extremely displeased that I constantly delayed the moment of speaking to him on the subject. It was therefore with extreme satisfaction I learned that M. de Talleyrand had anticipated me. No person was more capable than himself of gilding the pill, as one may say, to Bonaparte. Endowed with as much independence of character as of mind, he did him the service, at the risk of offending him, to tell him that a great number of creditors expressed their discontent in bitter complaints respecting the debts contracted by Madame Bonaparte during his expedition to the East. Bonaparte felt that his situation required him promptly to remove the cause of such complaints. It was one night about half-past eleven o'clock that M. Talleyrand introduced this delicate subject. As soon he was gone I entered the little cabinet; Bonaparte said to me, "Bourrienne, Talleyrand has been speaking to me about the debts of my Wife. I have the money from Hamburg—ask her the exact amount of her debts: let her confess all. I wish to finish, and not begin again. But do not pay without showing me the bills of those rascals: they are a gang of robbers."
Hitherto the apprehension of an unpleasant scene, the very idea of which made Josephine tremble, had always prevented me from broaching this subject to the First Consul; but, well pleased that Talleyrand had first touched upon it, I resolved to do all in my power to put an end to the disagreeable affair.
The next morning I saw Josephine. She was at first delighted with her husband's intentions; but this feeling did not last long. When I asked her for an exact account of what she owed she entreated me not to press it, but content myself with what she should confess. I said to her, "Madame, I cannot deceive you respecting the disposition of the First Consul. He believes that you owe a considerable sum, and is willing to discharge it. You will, I doubt not, have to endure some bitter reproaches, and a violent scene; but the scene will be just the same for the whole as for a part. If you conceal a large proportion of your debts at the end of some time murmurs will recommence, they will reach the ears of the First Consul, and his anger will display itself still more strikingly. Trust to me—state all; the result will be the same; you will hear but once the disagreeable things he will say to you; by reservations you will renew them incessantly." Josephine said, "I can never tell all; it is impossible. Do me the service to keep secret what I say to you. I owe, I believe, about 1,200,000 francs, but I wish to confess only 600,000; I will contract no more debts, and will pay the rest little by little out of my savings."—"Here, Madame, my first observations recur. As I do not believe he estimates your debts at so high a sum as 600,000 francs, I can warrant that you will not experience more displeasure for acknowledging to 1,200,000 than to 600,000; and by going so far you will get rid of them for ever."—"I can never do it, Bourrienne; I know him; I can never support his violence." After a quarter of an hour's further discussion on the subject I was obliged to yield to her earnest solicitation, and promise to mention only the 600,000 francs to the First Consul.
The anger and ill-humour of Bonaparte may be imagined. He strongly suspected that his wife was dissembling in some respect; but he said, "Well, take 600,000 francs, but liquidate the debts for that sum, and let me hear nothing more on the subject. I authorise you to threaten these tradesmen with paying nothing if they, do not reduce their enormous charges. They ought to be taught not to be so ready in giving credit." Madame Bonaparte gave me all her bills. The extent to which the articles had been overcharged, owing to the fear of not being paid for a long period, and of deductions being made from the amount, was inconceivable. It appeared to me, also, that there must be some exaggeration in the number of articles supplied. I observed in the milliner's bill thirty-eight new hats, of great price, in one month. There was likewise a charge of 1800 francs for heron plumes, and 800 francs for perfumes. I asked Josephine whether she wore out two hats in one day? She objected to this charge for the hats, which she merely called a mistake. The impositions which the saddler attempted, both in the extravagance of his prices and in charging for articles which he had not furnished, were astonishing. I need say nothing of the other tradesmen, it was the same system of plunder throughout.
I availed myself fully of the First Consul's permission, and spared neither reproaches nor menaces. I am ashamed to say that the greater part of the tradesmen were contented with the half of what they demanded. One of them received 35,000 francs for a bill of 80,000; and he had the impudence to tell me that he made a good profit nevertheless. Finally, I was fortunate enough, after the most vehement disputes, to settle everything for 600,000 francs. Madame Bonaparte, however, soon fell again into the same excesses, but fortunately money became more plentiful. This inconceivable mania of spending money was almost the sole cause of her unhappiness. Her thoughtless profusion occasioned permanent disorder in her household until the period of Bonaparte's second marriage, when, I am informed, she became regular in her expenditure. I could not say so of her when she was Empress in 1804.
—[Notwithstanding her husband's wish, she could never bring her establishment into any order or rule. He wished that no tradesmen should ever reach her, but he was forced to yield on this point. The small inner roams were filled with them, as with artists of all sorts. She had a mania for having herself painted, and gave her portraits to whoever wished for one, relations, 'femmes de chambre', even to tradesmen. They never ceased bringing her diamonds, jewels, shawls, materials for dresses, and trinkets of all kinds; she bought everything without ever asking the price; and generally forgot what she had purchased. . . All the morning she had on a shawl which she draped on her shoulders with a grace I have seen in no one else. Bonaparte, who thought her shawls covered her too much, tore them off, and sometimes threw them into the fire; then she sent for another (Remusat, tome ii. pp. 343-345). After the divorce her income, large as it was, was insufficient, but the Emperor was more compassionate then, and when sending the Comte Mollien to settle her affairs gave him strict orders "not to make her weep" (Meneval, tome iii. p.237)]—
The amiable Josephine had not less ambition in little thins than her husband had in great. She felt pleasure in acquiring and not in possessing. Who would suppose it? She grew tired of the beauty of the park of Malmaison, and was always asking me to take her out on the high road, either in the direction of Nanterre, or on that of Marly, in the midst of the dust occasioned by the passing of carriages. The noise of the high road appeared to her preferable to the calm silence of the beautiful avenues of the park, and in this respect Hortense had the same taste as her mother. This whimsical fancy astonished Bonaparte, and he was sometimes vexed at it. My intercourse with Josephine was delightful; for I never saw a woman who so constantly entered society with such an equable disposition, or with so much of the spirit of kindness, which is the first principle of amiability. She was so obligingly attentive as to cause a pretty suite of apartments to be prepared at Malmaison for me and my family.
She pressed me earnestly, and with all her known grace, to accept it; but almost as much a captive at Paris as a prisoner of state, I wished to have to myself in the country the moments of liberty I was permitted to enjoy. Yet what was this liberty? I had bought a little house at Ruel, which I kept during two years and a half. When I saw my friends there, it had to be at midnight, of at five o'clock in the morning; and the First Consul would often send for me in the night when couriers arrived. It was for this sort of liberty I refused Josephine's kind offer. Bonaparte came once to see me in my retreat at Ruel, but Josephine and Hortense came often: It was a favourite walk with these ladies.
At Paris I was less frequently absent from Bonaparte than at Malmaison. We sometimes in the evening walked together in the garden of the Tuileries after the gates were closed. In these evening walks he always wore a gray greatcoat, and a round hat. I was directed to answer, "The First Consul," to the sentinel's challenge of, "Who goes there?" These promenades, which were of much benefit to Bonaparte, and me also, as a relaxation from our labours, resembled those which we had at Malmaison. As to our promenades in the city, they were often very amusing.
At the period of our first inhabiting the Tuileries, when I saw Bonaparte enter the cabinet at eight o'clock in the evening in his gray coat, I knew he would say, "Bourrienne, come and take a turn." Sometimes, then, instead of going out by the garden arcade, we would take the little gate which leads from the court to the apartments of the Due d'Angouleme. He would take my arm, and we would go to buy articles of trifling value in the shops of the Rue St. Honore; but we did not extend our excursions farther than Rue de l'Arbre Sec. Whilst I made the shopkeeper exhibit before us the articles which I appeared anxious to buy he played his part in asking questions.
Nothing was more amusing than to see him endeavouring to imitate the careless and jocular tone of the young men of fashion. How awkward was he in the attempt to put on dandy airs when pulling up the corners of his cravat he would say, "Well, Madame, is there anything new to-day? Citizen, what say they of Bonaparte? Your shop appears to be well supplied. You surely have a great deal of custom. What do people say of that buffoon; Bonaparte?" He was made quite happy one day when we were obliged to retire hastily from a shop to avoid the attacks drawn upon us by the irreverent tone in which Bonaparte spoke of the First Consul.
War and monuments—Influence of the recollections of Egypt— First improvements in Paris—Malmaison too little—St. Cloud taken —The Pont des Arts—Business prescribed for me by Bonaparte— Pecuniary remuneration—The First Consul's visit to the Pritanee— His examination of the pupils—Consular pensions—Tragical death of Miackzinski—Introduction of vaccination—Recall of the members of the Constituent Assembly—The "canary" volunteers—Tronchet and Target—Liberation of the Austrian prisoners—Longchamps and sacred music.
The destruction of men and the construction of monuments were two things perfectly in unison in the mind of Bonaparte. It may be said that his passion for monuments almost equalled his passion for war;
—[Take pleasure, if you can, in reading your returns. The good condition of my armies is owing to my devoting to them one or two hours in every day. When the monthly returns of my armies and of my fleets, which form twenty thick volumes, are sent to me. I give up every other occupation in order to read them in detail and to observe the difference between one monthly return and another. No young girl enjoys her novel so much as I do these returns! (Napoleon to Joseph, 20th August 1806—Du Casse, tome iii. p. 145).]—
but as in all things he disliked what was little and mean, so he liked vast constructions and great battles. The sight of the colossal ruins of the monuments of Egypt had not a little contributed to augment his natural taste for great structures. It was not so much the monuments themselves that he admired, but the historical recollections they perpetuate the great names they consecrate, the important events they attest. What should he have cared for the column which we beheld on our arrival in Alexandria had it not been Pompey's pillar? It is for artists to admire or censure its proportions and ornaments, for men of learning to explain its inscriptions; but the name of Pompey renders it an object of interest to all.
When endeavouring to sketch the character of Bonaparte, I ought to have noticed his taste for monuments, for without this characteristic trait something essential is wanting to the completion of the portrait. This taste, or, as it may more properly be called, this passion for monuments, exercised no small influence on his thoughts and projects of glory; yet it did not deter him from directing attention to public improvements; of a less ostentatious kind. He wished for great monuments to perpetuate the recollection of his glory; but at the same time he knew how to appreciate all that was truly useful. He could very rarely be reproached for rejecting any plan without examination; and this examination was a speedy affair, for his natural tact enabled him immediately to see things in their proper light.
Though most of the monuments and embellishments of Paris are executed from the plans of men of talent, yet some owe their origin to circumstances merely accidental. Of this I can mention an example.
I was standing at the window of Bonaparte's' cabinet, which looked into the garden of the Tuileries. He had gone out, and I took advantage of his absence to arise from my chair, for I was tired of sitting. He had scarcely been gone a minute when he unexpectedly returned to ask me for a paper. "What are you doing there, Bourrienne? I'll wager anything you are admiring the ladies walking on the terrace."—"Why, I must confess I do sometimes amuse myself in that way," replied I; "but I assure you, General, I was now thinking of something else. I was looking at that villainous left bank of the Seine, which always annoys me with the gaps in its dirty quay, and the floodings which almost every winter prevent communication with the Faubourg St. Germain; and I was thinking I would speak to you on the subject." He approached the window, and, looking out, said, "You are right, it is very ugly; and very offensive to see dirty linen washed before our windows. Here, write immediately: 'The quay of the Ecole de Natation is to be finished during next campaign.' Send that order to the Minister of the Interior." The quay was finished the year following.
An instance of the enormous difference which frequently appears between the original estimates of architects and their subsequent accounts I may mention what occurred in relation to the Palace of St. Cloud. But I must first say a word about the manner in which Bonaparte originally refused and afterwards took possession of the Queen's pleasure-house. Malmaison was a suitable country residence for Bonaparte as long as he remained content with his town apartments in the little Luxembourg; but that Consular 'bagatelle' was too confined in comparison with the spacious apartments in the Tuileries. The inhabitants of St. Cloud, well-advised, addressed a petition to the Legislative Body, praying that their deserted chateau might be made the summer residence of the First Consul. The petition was referred to the Government; but Bonaparte, who was not yet Consul for life, proudly declared that so long as he was at the head of affairs, and, indeed, for a year afterwards, he would accept no national recompense. Sometime after we went to visit the palace of the 18th Brumaire. Bonaparte liked it exceedingly, but all was in a, state of complete dilapidation. It bore evident marks of the Revolution. The First Consul did not wish, as yet, to burden the budget of the State with his personal expenses, and he was alarmed at the enormous sum required to render St. Cloud habitable. Flattery had not yet arrived at the degree of proficiency which it subsequently attained; but even then his flatterers boldly assured him he might take possession of St. Cloud for 25,000 francs. I told the First Consul that considering the ruinous state of the place, I could to say that the expense would amount to more than 1,200,000 francs. Bonaparte determined to have a regular estimate of the expense, and it amounted to nearly 3,000,000. He thought it a great sum; but as he had resolved to make St. Cloud his residence he gave orders for commencing the repairs, the expense of which, independently of the furniture, amounted to 6,000,000. So much for the 3,000,000 of the architect and the 25,000 francs of the flatterers.
When the First Consul contemplated the building of the Pont des Arts we had a long conversation on the subject. I observed that it would be much better to build the bridge of stone. "The first object of monuments of this kind," said I, "is public utility. They require solidity of appearance, and their principal merit is duration. I cannot conceive, General, why, in a country where there is abundance of fine stone of every quality, the use of iron should be preferred."—"Write," said Bonaparte, "to Fontaine and Percier, the architects, and ask what they think of it." I wrote and they stated in their answer that "bridges were intended for public utility and the embellishment of cities. The projected bridge between the Louvre and the Quatre-Nations would unquestionably fulfil the first of these objects, as was proved by the great number of persons who daily crossed the Seine at that point in boats; that the site fixed upon between the Pont Neuf and the Tuileries appeared to be the best that could be chosen for the purpose; and that on the score of ornament Paris would gain little by the construction of an iron bridge, which would be very narrow, and which, from its light form, would not correspond with the grandeur of the two bridges between which it would be placed."
When we had received the answer of MM. Percier and Fontaine, we again had a conversation on the subject of the bridge. I told the First Consul that I perfectly concurred in the opinion of MM. Fontame and Percier; how ever, he would have his own way, and thus was authorised the construction of the toy which formed a communication between the Louvre and the Institute. But no sooner was the Pont des Arts finished than Bonaparte pronounced it to be mean and out of keeping with the other bridges above and below it. One day when visiting the Louvre he stopped at one of the windows looking towards the Pout des Arts and said, "There is no solidity, no grandeur about that bridge. In England, where stone is scarce, it is very natural that iron should be used for arches of large dimensions. But the case is different in France, where the requisite material is abundant."
The infernal machine of the 3d Nivose, of which I shall presently speak more at length, was the signal for vast changes in the quarter of the Tuileries. That horrible attempt was at least so far attended by happy results that it contributed to the embellishment of Paris. It was thought more advisable for the Government to buy and pull down the houses which had been injured by the machine than to let them be put under repair. As an example of Bonaparte's grand schemes in building I may mention that, being one day at the Louvre, he pointed towards St. Germain l'Auxerrois and said to me, "That is where I will build an imperial street. It shall run from here to the Barriere du Trone. It shall be a hundred feet broad, and have arcades and plantations. This street shall be the finest in the world."
The palace of the King of Rome, which was to face the Pont de Jena and the Champ de Mars, would have been in some measure isolated from Paris, with which, however, it was to be connected by a line of palaces. These were to extend along the quay, and were destined as splendid residences for the Ambassadors of foreign sovereigns, at least as long as there should be any sovereigns Europe except Napoleon. The Temple of Glory, too, which was to occupy the site of the Church of la Madeleine, was never finished. If the plan of this monument, proved the necessity. which Bonaparte felt of constantly holding out stimulants to his soldiers, its relinquishment was at least a proof of his wisdom. He who had reestablished religious worship in France, and had restored to its destination the church of the Invalides, which was for a time metamorphosed into the Temple of Mars, foresaw that a Temple of Glory would give birth to a sort of paganism incompatible with the ideas of the age.
The recollection of the magnificent Necropolis of Cairo frequently recurred to. Bonaparte's mind. He had admired that city of the dead, which he had partly contributed to people; and his design was to make, at, the four cardinal points of Paris, four vast cemeteries on the plan of that at Cairo.
Bonaparte determined that all the new streets of Paris should be 40 feet wide, and be provided with foot-pavements; in short, he thought nothing too grand for the embellishment of the capital of a country which he wished to make the first in the world. Next to war, he regard the embellishment of Paris as the source of his glory; and he never considered a victory fully achieved until he had raised a monument to transmit its memory to posterity. He, wanted glory, uninterrupted glory, for France as well as for himself: How often, when talking over his schemes, has he not said, "Bourrienne, it is for France I am doing all this! All I wish, all I desire, the end of all my labours is, that my name should be indissolubly connected with that of France!"
Paris is not the only city, nor is France the only kingdom, which hears traces of Napoleon's passion for great and useful monuments. In Belgium, in Holland, in Piedmont, in all Italy, he executed great improvements. At Turin a splendid bridge was built over the Po, in lieu of an old bridge which was falling in ruins.
How many things were undertaken and executed in Napoleon's short and eventful reign! To obviate the difficulty of communication between Metz and Mayence a magnificent road was made, as if by magic, across impracticable marshes and vast forests. Mountains were cut through and ravines filled up. He would not allow nature more than man to resist him. One day when he was proceeding to Belgium by the way of Civet, he was detained for a short time at Little Givet, on the right bank of the Meuse, in consequence of an accident which happened to the ferry-boat. He was within a gunshot of the fortress of Charlemont, on the left bank, and in the vexation which the delay occasioned he dictated the following decree: "A bridge shall be built over the Meuse to join Little Civet to Great Givet. It shall be terminated during the ensuing campaign." It was completed within the prescribed time: In the great work of bridges and highways Bonaparte's chief object was to remove the obstacles and barriers which nature had raised up as the limits of old France so as to form a junction with the provinces which he successively annexed to the Empire. Thus in Savoy a road, smooth as a garden-walk, superseded the dangerous ascents and descents of the wood of Bramant; thus was the passage of Mont Cenis a pleasant promenade at almost every season of the year; thus did the Simplon bow his head, and Bonaparte might have said, "There are now my Alps," with more reason than Louis XIV. said, "There are now no Pyrenees."
—[Metternich (tome iv. p. 187) says on this subject, 'If you look closely at the course of human affairs you will make strange discoveries. For instance, that the Simplon Pass has contributed as surely to Napoleon's immortality as the numerous works done in the reign of the Emperor Francis will fail to add to his.]—
Such was the implicit confidence which Bonaparte reposed in me that I was often alarmed at the responsibility it obliged me to incur.
—[Of this confidence the following instructions for me, which he dictated to Duroc, afford sufficient proof:—
"1st. Citizen Bourrienne shall open all the letters addressed to the First Consul, Vol, and present them to him three times a day, or oftener in case of urgent business. The letters shall be deposited in the cabinet when they are opened. Bourrienne is to analyse all those which are of secondary interest, and write the First Consul's decision on each letter. The hours for presenting the letters shall be, first, when the Consul rises; second, a quarter of an hour before dinner; and third, at eleven at night.
"2d. He is to have the superintendence of the Topographical office, and of an office of Translation, in which there shall be a German and an English clerk. Every day he shall present to the First Consul, at the hours above mentioned the German and English journals, together with a translation. With respect to the Italian journals, it will only be necessary to mark what the First Consul is to read.
"3d. He shall keep a register of appointments to offices under Government; a second, for appointments to judicial posts; a third for appointments to places abroad; and a fourth, for the situations of receivers and great financial posts, where he is to inscribe the names of all the individuals whom the First Consul may refer to him. These registers must be written by his own hand, and must be kept entirely private.
"4th. Secret correspondence, and the different reports of surveillance, are to be addressed directly to Bourrienne, and transmitted by him to the hand of the First Consul, by whom they will be returned without the intervention of any third party.
"6th. There shall be a register for all that relates to secret extraordinary expenditure. Bourrienne shall write the whole with his own hand, in order that the business may be kept from the knowledge of any one.
"7th. He shall despatch all the business which maybe referred to him, either from Citizen Duroc, or from the cabinet of the First Consul, taking care to arrange everything so as to secure secrecy.
"(Signed) "BONAPARTE, First Council.
"Paris, 13th Germinal, year VIII. "(3d. April 1800.)"]—
Official business was not the only labour that devolved upon me. I had to write to the dictation of the First Consul during a great part of the day, or to decipher his writing, which was always the most laborious part of my duty. I was so closely employed that I scarcely ever went out; and when by chance I dined in town, I could not arrive until the very moment of dinner, and I was obliged to run away immediately after it. Once a month, at most, I went without Bonaparte to the Comedie Francaise, but I was obliged to return at nine o'clock, that heing the hour at which we resumed business. Corvisart, with whom I was intimately acquainted, constantly expressed his apprehensions about my health; but my zeal carried me through every difficulty, and during our stay at the Tuileries I cannot express how happy I was in enjoying the unreserved confidence of the man on whom the eyes of all Europe were filed. So perfect was this confidence that Bonaparte, neither as General, Consul, nor Emperor, ever gave me any fixed salary. In money matters we were still comrades: I took from his funds what was necessary to defray my expenses, and of this Bonaparte never once asked me for any account.
He often mentioned his wish to regenerate public education, which he thought was ill managed. The central schools did not please him; but he could not withhold his admiration from the Polytechnic School, the finest establishment of education that was ever founded, but which he afterwards spoiled by giving it a military organisation. In only one college of Paris the old system of study was preserved: this was the Louis-le-Grand, which had received the name of Pritanee. The First Consul directed the Minister of the Interior to draw up a report on that establishment; and he himself went to pay an unexpected visit to the Pritanee, accompanied by M. Lebrun and Duroc. He remained there upwards of an hour, and in the evening he spoke to me with much interest on the subject of his visit. "Do you know, Bourrienne," said he, "that I have been performing the duties of professor?"—"you, General!"—"Yes! and I did not acquit myself badly. I examined the pupils in the mathematical class; and I recollected enough of my Bezout to make some demonstrations before them. I went everywhere, into the bedrooms and the dining-room. I tasted the soup, which is better than we used to have at Brienne. I must devote serious attention to public education and the management of the colleges. The pupils must have a uniform. I observed some well and others ill dressed. That will not do. At college, above all places, there should be equality. But I was much pleased with the pupils of the Pritanee. I wish to know the names of those I examined, and I have desired Duroc to report them to me. I will give them rewards; that stimulates young people. I will provide for some of them."
On this subject Bonaparte did not confine himself to an empty scheme. After consulting with the headmaster of the Pritanee, he granted pensions of 200 francs to seven or eight of the most distinguished pupils of the establishment, and he placed three of them in the department of Foreign Affairs, under the title of diplomatic pupils.
—[This institution of diplomatic pupils was originally suggested by M. de Talleyrand.]—
What I have just said respecting the First Consul's visit to the Pritanee reminds me of a very extraordinary circumstance which arose out of it. Among the pupils at the Pritanee there was a son of General Miackzinski, who died fighting under the banners of the Republic. Young Miackzinski was then sixteen or seventeen years of age. He soon quitted the college, entered the army as a volunteer, and was one of a corps reviewed by Bonaparte, in the plain of Sablons. He was pointed out to the First Consul, who said to him. "I knew your father. Follow his example, and in six months you shall be an officer." Six months elapsed, and Miackzinski wrote to the First Consul, reminding him of his promise. No answer was returned, and the young man then wrote a second letter as follows:
You desired me to prove myself worthy of my father; I have done so. You promised that I should be an officer in six months; seven have elapsed since that promise was made. When you receive this letter I shall be no more. I cannot live under a Government the head of which breaks his word.
Poor Miackzinski kept his word but, too faithfully. After writing the above letter to the First Consul he retired to his chamber and blew out his brains with a pistol. A few days after this tragical event Miackzinski's commission was transmitted to his corps, for Bonaparte had not forgotten him. A delay in the War Office had caused the death of this promising young man Bonaparte was much affected at the circumstance, and he said to me, "These Poles have such refined notions of honour.... Poor Sulkowski, I am sure, would have done the same."
At the commencement of the Consulate it was gratifying, to see how actively Bonaparte was seconded in the execution of plans for the social regeneration of France all seemed animated with new life, and every one strove to do good as if it were a matter of competition.
Every circumstance concurred to favour the good intentions of the First Consul. Vaccination, which, perhaps, has saved as many lives as war has sacrificed, was introduced into France by M. d Liancourt; and Bonaparte, immediately appreciating the 'value of such a discovery, gave it his decided approbation. At the same time a council of Prizes was established, and the old members of the Constituent Assembly were invited to return to France. It was for their sake and that of the Royalists that the First Consul recalled them, but it was to please the Jacobins, whom he was endeavouring to conciliate, that their return was subject to restrictions. At first the invitation to return to France extended only to those who could prove that they had voted in favour of the abolition of nobility. The lists of emigrants were closed, and committees were appointed to investigate their claims to the privilege of returning.
From the commencement of the month of Germinal the reorganisation of the army of Italy had proceeded with renewed activity. The presence in Paris of the fine corps of the Consular Guard, added to the desire of showing themselves off in gay uniforms, had stimulated the military ardour of many respectable young men of the capital. Taking advantage of this circumstance the First Consul created a corps of volunteers destined for the army of reserve, which was to remain at Dijon. He saw the advantage of connecting a great number of families with his cause, and imbuing them with the spirit of the army. This volunteer corps wore a yellow uniform which, in some of the salons of Paris where it was still the custom to ridicule everything, obtained for them the nickname of "canaries." Bonaparte, who did not always relish a joke, took this in very ill part, and often expressed to me his vexation at it. However, he was gratified to observe in the composition of this corps a first specimen of privileged soldiers; an idea which he acted upon when he created the orderly gendarmes in the campaign of Jena, and when he organised the guards of honour after the disasters of Moscow.
In every action of his life Bonaparte had some particular object in view. I recollect his saying to me one day, "Bourrienne, I cannot yet venture to do anything against the regicides; but I will let them see what I think of them. To-morrow I shall have some business with Abrial respecting the organisation of the court of Cassation. Target, who is the president of that court, would not defend Louis XVI. Well, whom do you think I mean to appoint in his place? . . . Tronchet, who did defend the king. They may say what they please; I care not."
—[On this, as on many other occasions, the cynicism of Bonaparte's language does, not admit of a literal translation.]—
Tronchet was appointed.
Nearly about the same time the First Consul, being informed of the escape of General Mack, said to me, "Mack may go where he pleases; I am not afraid of him. But I will tell you what I have been thinking. There are some other Austrian officers who were prisoners with Mack; among the number is a Count Dietrichstein, who belongs to a great family in Vienna. I will liberate them all. At the moment of opening a campaign this will have a good effect. They will see that I fear nothing; and who knows but this may procure me some admirers in Austria." The order for liberating the Austrian prisoners was immediately despatched. Thus Bonaparte's acts of generosity, as well as his acts of severity and his choice of individuals, were all the result of deep calculation.
This unvarying attention to the affairs of the Government was manifest in all he did. I have already mentioned the almost simultaneous suppression of the horrible commemoration of the month of January, and the permission for the revival of the opera balls. A measure something similar to this was the authorisation of the festivals of Longchamps, which had been forgotten since the Revolution. He at the same time gave permission for sacred music to be performed at the opera. Thus, while in public acts he maintained the observance of the Republican calendar, he was gradually reviving the old calendar by seasons of festivity. Shrove-Tuesday was marked by a ball, and Passion-week by promenades and concerts.
The Memorial of St. Helena—Louis XVIII.'s first letter to Bonaparte —Josephine, Hortense, and the Faubourg St. Germain— Madame Bonaparte and the fortune-teller—Louis XVIII's second letter —Bonaparte's answer—Conversation respecting the recall of Louis XVIII.—Peace and war—A battle fought with pins-Genoa and Melas— Realisation of Bonaparte's military plans—Ironical letter to Berthier—Departure from Paris—Instructions to Lucien and Cambaceres—Joseph Bonaparte appointed Councillor of State— Travelling conversation—Alexander and Caesar judged by Bonaparte.
It sometimes happens that an event which passes away unnoticed at the time of its occurrence acquires importance from events which subsequently ensue. This reflection naturally occurs to my mind now that I am about to notice the correspondence which passed between Louis XVIII. and the First Consul. This is certainly not one of the least interesting passages in the life of Bonaparte.
But I must first beg leave to make an observation on the 'Memorial of St. Helena.' That publication relates what Bonaparte said respecting the negotiations between Louis XVIII. and himself; and I find it necessary to quote a few lines on the subject, in order to show how far the statements contained in the Memorial differ from the autograph letters in my possession.
At St. Helena Napoleon said that he never thought of the princes of the House of Bourbon. This is true to a certain point. He did not think of the princes of the House of Bourbon with the view of restoring them to their throne; but it has been shown, in several parts of these Memoirs, that he thought of them very often, and on more than one occasion their very names alarmed him.
—[The Memorial states that "A letter was delivered to the First Consul by Lebrun who received it from the Abbe de Montesquieu, the secret agent of the Bourbons in Paris." This letter which was very cautiously written, said:—
"You are long delaying the restoration of my throne. It is to be feared you are suffering favourable moments to escape. You cannot secure the happiness of France without me, and I can do nothing for France without you. Hasten, then, to name the offices which you would choose for your friends."
The answer, Napoleon said, was as follows:—
"I have received your royal highness' letter. I have always taken a lively interest in your misfortunes, and those of your family. You must not think of appearing in France; you could only return here by trampling over a hundred thousand dead bodies. I shall always be happy to do anything that can alleviate your fate and help to banish the recollection of your misfortunes."—Bourrienne.]—
The substance of the two letters given in the 'Memorial of St. Helena' is correct. The ideas are nearly the same as those of the original letters. But it is not surprising that, after the lapse of so long an interval, Napoleon's memory should somewhat have failed him. However, it will not, I presume, be deemed unimportant if I present to the reader literal copies of this correspondence; together with the explanation of some curious circumstances connected with it.
The following is Louis XVIII's letter:—
SIR—Whatever may be their apparent conduct, men like you never inspire alarm. You have accepted an eminent station, and I thank you for having done so. You know better than any one how much strength and power are requisite to secure the happiness of a great nation. Save France from her own violence, and you will fulfil the first wish of my heart. Restore her King to her, and future generations will bless your memory. You will always be too necessary to the State for me ever to be able to discharge, by important appointments, the debt of my family and myself.
The First Consul was much agitated on the reception of this letter. Though he every day declared his determination to have nothing to do with the Princes, yet he hesitated whether or no he should reply to this overture. The numerous affairs which then occupied his mind favoured this hesitation. Josephine and Hortense conjured him to hold out hope to the King, as by so doing he would in no way pledge himself, and would gain time to ascertain whether he could not ultimately play a far greater part than that of Monk. Their entreaties became so urgent that he said to me, "These devils of women are mad! The Faubourg St. Germain has turned their heads! They make the Faubourg the guardian angel of the royalists; but I care not; I will have nothing to do with them."
Madame Bonaparte said she was anxious he should adopt the step she proposed in order to banish from his mind all thought of making himself King. This idea always gave rise to a painful foreboding which she could never overcome.
In the First Consul's numerous conversations with me he discussed with admirable sagacity Louis XVIII.'s proposition and its consequences. "The partisans of the Bourbons," said he, "are deceived if they suppose I am the man to play Monk's part." Here the matter rested, and the King's letter remained on the table. In the interim Louis XVIII. wrote a second letter, without any date. It was as follows:
You must have long since been convinced, General, that you possess my esteem. If you doubt my gratitude, fix your reward and mark out the fortune of your friends. As to my principles, I am a Frenchman, merciful by character, and also by the dictates of reason.
No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, the conqueror of Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer vain celebrity to real glory. But you are losing precious time. We may ensure the glory of France.
I say we, because I require the aid of Bonaparte, and he can do nothing without me.
General, Europe observes you. Glory awaits you, and I am impatient to restore peace to my people. (Signed) LOUIS.
This dignified letter the First Consul suffered to remain unanswered for several weeks; at length he proposed to dictate an answer to me. I observed, that as the King's letters were autographs, it would be more proper that he should write himself. He then wrote with his own hand the following:
Sir—I have received your letter, and I thank you for the compliments you address to me.
You must not seek to return to France. To do so you must trample over a hundred thousand dead bodies.
Sacrifice your interest to the repose and happiness of France, and history will render you justice.
I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family. I shall learn with pleasure, and shall willingly contribute to ensure, the tranquillity of your retirement. (Signed) BONAPARTE.
He showed me this letter, saying, "What do you think of it? is it not good?" He was never offended when I pointed out to him an error of grammar or style, and I therefore replied, "As to the substance, if such be your resolution, I have nothing to say against it; but," added I, "I must make one observation on the style. You cannot say that you shall learn with pleasure to ensure, etc." On reading the passage over again he thought he had pledged himself too far in saying that he would willingly contribute, etc. He therefore scored out the last sentence, and interlined, "I shall contribute with pleasure to the happiness and tranquillity of your retirement."
The answer thus scored and interlined could not be sent off, and it lay on the table with Bonaparte's signature affixed to it.
Some time after he wrote another answer, the three first paragraphs of which were exactly alike that first quoted; but far the last paragraph he substituted the following:
"I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family; and I shall learn with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that can contribute to the tranquillity of your retirement."
By this means he did not pledge himself in any way, not even in words, for he himself made no offer of contributing, to the tranquillity of the retirement. Every day which augmented his power and consolidated his position diminished, he thought, the chances of the Bourbons; and seven months were suffered to intervene between the date of the King's first letter and the answer of the First Consul, which was written on the 2d Vendemiaire, year IX. (24th September 1800) just when the Congress of Luneville was on the point of opening.
Soma days after the receipt of Louis XVIII.'s letter we were walking in the gardens of Malmaison; he was in good humour, for everything was going on to his mind. "Has my wife been saying anything more to you about the Bourbons?" said he.—"No, General."—"But when you converse with her you concur a little in her opinions. Tell me why you wish the Bourbons back? You have no interest in their return, nothing to expect from them. Your family rank is not high enough to enable you to obtain any great post. You would be nothing under them. Through the patronage of M. de Chambonas you got the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart; but had it not been for the change you would have remained all your life in that or some inferior post. Did you ever know men rise by their own merit under kings? Everything depends on birth, connection, fortune, and intrigue. Judge things more accurately; reflect more maturely on the future."—"General," replied I, "I am quite of your opinion on one point. I never received gift, place, or favour from the Bourbons; and I have not the vanity to believe that I should ever have attained any important Appointment. But you must not forget that my nomination as Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart preceded the overthrow of the throne only by a few days; and I cannot infer, from what took place under circumstances unfortunately too certain, what might have happened in the reverse case. Besides, I am not actuated by personal feelings; I consider not my own interests, but those of France. I wish you to hold the reins of government as long as you live; but you have no children, and it is tolerably certain that you will have none by Josephine: What will become of us when you are gone? You talk of the future; but what will be the future fate of France? I have often heard you say that your brothers are not—"—"You are right," said he, abruptly interrupting me. "If I do not live thirty years to complete my work you will have a long series of civil wars after my death. My brothers will not suit France; you know what they are. A violent conflict will therefore arise among the most distinguished generals, each of whom will think himself entitled to succeed me."—"Well, General, why not take means to obviate the mischief you foresee?"—"Do you imagine I do not think of it? But look at the difficulties that stand in my way. How are so many acquired-rights and material results to be secured against the efforts of a family restored to power, and returning with 80,000 emigrants and the influence of fanaticism? What would become of those who voted for the death, of the King—the men who acted a conspicuous part in the Revolution—the national domains, and a multitude of things that have been done during twelve years? Can you see how far reaction would extend?"—"General, need I remind you that Louis, in his letter, guarantees the contrary of all you apprehend? I know what will be your answer; but are you not able to impose whatever conditions you may think fit? Grant what is asked of you only at that price. Take three or four years; in that time you may ensure the happiness of France by institutions conformable to her wants. Custom and habit would give them a power which it would not be easy to destroy; and even supposing such a design were entertained, it could not be accomplished. I have heard you say it is wished you should act the part of Monk; but you well know the difference between a general opposing the usurper of a crown, and one whom victory and peace have raised above the ruins of a subverted throne, and who restores it voluntarily to those who have long occupied it. You are well aware what you call ideology will not again be revived; and—"—"I know what you are going to say; but it all amounts to nothing. Depend upon it, the Bourbons will think they have reconquered their inheritance, and will dispose of it as they please. The most sacred pledges, the most positive promises, will be violated. None but fools will trust them. My resolution is formed; therefore let us say no more on the subject. But I know how these women torment you. Let them mind their knitting, and leave me to do what I think right."
Every one knows the adage, 'Si vis pacem para bellum'. Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, 'Si vis bellum para pacem'. While seeking to establish pacific relations with the powers of Europe the First Consul was preparing to strike a great blow in Italy. As long as Genoa held out, and Massena continued there, Bonaparte did not despair of meeting the Austrians in those fields which not four years before had been the scenes of his success. He resolved to assemble an army of reserve at Dijon. Where there was previously nothing he created everything. At that period of his life the fertility of his imagination and the vigour of his genius must have commanded the admiration of even his bitterest enemies. I was astonished at the details into which he entered. While every moment was engrossed by the most important occupations he sent 24,000 francs to the hospital of Mont St. Bernard. When he saw that his army of reserve was forming, and everything was going on to his liking, he said to me, "I hope to fall on the rear of Melas before he is aware I am in Italy . . . that is to say, provided Genoa holds out. But MASSENA is defending it."
On the 17th of March, in a moment of gaiety and good humour, he desired me to unroll Chauchard's great map of Italy. He lay down upon it, and desired me to do likewise. He then stuck into it pins, the heads of which were tipped with wax, some red and some black. I silently observed him; and awaited with no little curiosity the result of this plan of campaign. When he had stationed the enemy's corps, and drawn up the pins with red heads on the points where he hoped to bring his own troops, he said to me, "Where do you think I shall beat Melas?"—"How the devil should I know?"—"Why, look here, you fool! Melas is at Alessandria with his headquarters. There he will remain until Genoa surrenders. He has in Alessandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, and his reserves. Crossing the Alps here (pointing to the Great Mont St. Bernard) I shall fall upon Melas, cut off his communications with Austria, and meet him here in the plains of Scrivia" (placing a red, pin at San Giuliano). Finding that I looked on this manoeuvre of pins as mere pastime, he addressed to me some of his usual compliments, such as fool, ninny, etc., and then proceeded to demonstrate his plans more clearly on the map. At the expiration of a quarter of an hour we rose; I folded up the map, and thought no more of the matter.
Four months after this, when I was at San Giuliano with Bonaparte's portfolio and despatches, which I had saved from the rout which had taken place during the day, and when that very evening I was writing at Torre di Galifolo the bulletin of the battle to Napoleon's dictation, I frankly avowed my admiration of his military plans. He himself smiled at the accuracy of his own foresight.
The First Consul was not satisfied with General Berthier as War Minister, and he superseded him by Carnot,
—[There were special reasons for the appointment of Carnot, Berthier was required with his master in Italy, while Carnot, who had so long ruled the armies of the Republic, was better fitted to influence Moreau, at this time advancing into Germany. Carnot probably fulfilled the main object of his appointment when he was sent to Moreau, and succeeded in getting that general, with natural reluctance, to damage his own campaign by detaching a large body of troops into Italy. Berthier was reappointed to the Ministry on the 8th of October 1800,—a very speedy return if he had really been disgraced.]—
who had given great proofs of firmness and integrity, but who, nevertheless, was no favourite of Bonaparte, on account of his decided republican principles. Berthier was too slow in carrying out the measures ordered, [duplicated line removed here D.W.] and too lenient in the payment of past charges and in new contracts. Carnot's appointment took place on the 2d of April 1800; and to console Berthier, who, he knew, was more at home in the camp than in the office, he dictated to me the following letter for him:—
PARIS, 2d April 1800.
CITIZEN-GENERAL,—The military talents of which you have given so many proofs, and the confidence of the Government, call you to the command of an army. During the winter you have REORGANISED the War Department, and you have provided, as far as circumstances would permit, for the wants of our armies. During the spring and summer it must be your task to lead our troops to victory, which is the effectual means of obtaining peace and consolidating the Republic.